When eleven Jews were murdered on a Saturday morning at the Tree of Life synagogue in 2018, Abby Schachter—a Pittsburgh resident, albeit a regular at a different congregation—found herself in a taxicab in Manhattan. Thereafter, she resolved to cease traveling by car, plane, or the like on the Sabbath. She writes of this decision:
Walking on Shabbat is just one way to mark a fault line. It is a means of delineating the sacred space of Shabbat as separate from the rest of the mundane week. The observance of Shabbat is filled with such separations and designations.
At first, changing behavior can be uncomfortable, and especially when it comes to religious observance, it can seem downright strange. I don’t think about walking in connection with the Tree of Life massacre anymore, if I ever did. Our Shabbat experience changed because of the shooting, but that does not mean it remains uppermost in my mind on any given Saturday.
Instead, not driving on Saturday has become as integral to my family’s experience as anything else we do to mark the separation from mundane weekday to holy Sabbath. It has also altered our community relationships, because we are invited more often to the homes of fellow congregants for lunch after services. Others have told us their door is open to us if we get caught in the rain walking home or need a glass of water or to rest. On some occasions, we’ve stayed longer at synagogue to enjoy an afternoon program or to visit with our friends. When the weather has been particularly forbidding, we’ve stayed home entirely and spent time together as a family.
One of the more beautiful aspects of Judaism is how it offers us the possibility of meaningful change. Walking on Shabbat is another step on the road to a deeper and richer Jewish life.